Dress Up: Not For Dudes?
Recently, I was asked whether I would let my son dress up like a princess and leave the house. This is a tough question. Very tough, in fact. Because of his always growing curiosity, stifling his imagination, which I believe to be innocent and age appropriate, doesn't sit well with me. On the other hand, letting him out in to a world that so viciously judges others by the cover, and worse, judges ME for my parenting decisions, makes this a tricky situation... A situation that will ultimately lead me to choosing a side, and one side only... NO. The answer is NO. I wouldn't let him leave the house in a princess outfit.
A) Several months ago, while on a play date with another little girl his age, the kids decided it would be fun to dress up in her princess costumes. The little girl got my boy all dolled up- tiara, wand, heels and all... He was so happy and thought it was the best most fun thing ever. Fine. No harm done. He was playing with his friend, they had fun. My girlfriend and I had a good laugh about how funny/adorable he looked and that was that. Once we got home it was all Operation Autobot and "tell me about Robots, mommy."
B) He likes to play with my bangles. Then count them. Then spin them. Then break them. Then hide the pieces.
C) As much as he dances and does this little shimmy move, he also likes to "bullet" or "fire laser" someone.
My point: He's a boy who I don't see struggling with identity, struggling with his sexuality. You see reports and stories from people like Chaz Bono, who at a very early age says he FELT like he was a boy in a woman's body. My son has never expressed a confusion or turmoil over this. Yes, he is young, but I believe it's as much my responsibility to raise him to be the boy I think he's destined to be as it is to let him explore every imaginative whim.
I am HARDLY saying that letting your child dress up as the opposite sex is wrong, I'm just saying that I know my son. I see who he is. And letting him leave the house in a princess outfit is not a form of expression and self awareness that is necessary for him to shape his own identity.... YET. To me, parenting is about knowing your child and knowing what they need. And when I hear stories about couples like the UK Beck Laxton and her partner Kieran Cooper who decided to raise their child gender neutral for five years, I am a little disturbed. Why did they wait five years to reveal that their "Sasha" was a boy? Because they wanted to avoid stereotyping. Like another Toronto couple, they kept the child's sex a secret so he/she could be "free of societal norms regarding gender."
Great. So a gender neutral kid isn't going to get tormented on the playground? Kids are picked on no matter what. And I'm willing to bet a kid with parents who are willing to put their child through a self social experiment (and gimmick, really) are probably going to be tortured.
My point again: If my son wants to play dress up here and there, FINE. Who cares! No problem. If he wants to leave the house once or twice in a tutu (which I wouldn't buy), I'd say no. If every day he was begging for a tutu and was drawn to nothing other than female clothing, then I'd reconsider. I'd follow his lead. I wouldn't fight what might be his destiny. But feeling like a girl is not what I believe he's missing, craving, or identifying with. And there is a big difference....